Archive for September, 2011

The Right Of The Poor

September 30, 2011

“To turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey” Isaiah 10:2.

Can you believe it, “Banks are starting to charge for the use of debit cards.”  CNN.COM reports, “Bank Of America will begin charging five dollars each month to its customers for the use of a debit card.” Certainly it does not seem that the economic crisis in the world is getting any better.  A recent survey suggests that 90% of all Americans are frustrated with the economy.

The nation of Israel was headed down a path that would lead them to the same feeling of frustration as they would face such economic hardship that would leave their land destitute of anything of value.  Here in Isaiah 10 we discover one of the many reasons why God was sending judgment on his people.  The nation of Israel was taking advantage of the poor in their midst.

But this is not only the sin of Israel, it has been the sin of every people in every generation.  Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always,” Matthew 26:11. The fact is, one of our nation’s biggest failures has been in our care for the poor around us.  Yes, this nation above all others has given to those in need around the world.  But in proportion to all we have been blessed with, we have given very little.

Where have we failed?  Certainly some would look to Washington and point a finger in her direction.  However, the failure is much closer to home.  I believe the failure is in the hearts of the very people who have been called to minister to the poor (James 1:27).  When you look at the church you often discover a people who are caring for their own wants and forgetting the needs of the poor around them.

Consider the five dollar fee that will be accessed to your debit card each month. Do you realize that for this amount of money we could be helping a starving family to have food for one month.  David Platt writes in the book Radical: “I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, ‘How could they live in such big houses?  How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes?  How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they did not have food and water?  How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn’t even exist,” cited on Pg. 111, “Radical.”

Brothers and sisters we must resist the sin of looking to our own desires.  We must surrender ourselves to the Christ life which includes the right of the poor in our midst.  We must follow the example of our Lord.  In Isaiah 11 the prophet of God describes the coming ministry of Christ, “But with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth,” 11:4.  Our Savior was and is balanced and fair.

This day I am both convicted and challenged to care for the poor in my midst.  Both those who are spiritually and physically poor.  This day I pray that each of you who read this bog will commit to the right of the poor for the Glory Of The Lord!!!

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The Reason Why

September 29, 2011

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shinned,” Isaiah 9:2.

Brothers and sisters this is truly a dark world without understanding of truth.  Ours is a world that is much like the world of Isaiah’s day.  Isaiah’s own people were characterized by the following, “The heart of the people was dull and their ears heavy, and they were blind in their eyes,” Isaiah 6:10.  Because of their sinful rebellion, judgment was coming.

Once this judgment comes, Isaiah wonders, “How long, O lord?”  The Lord responds, “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste,” 6:11.  In this moment we must be reminded of the reason why of all of this.  These people along with Isaiah were an unclean people with unclean lips.

At this moment, we certainly want to say, “They needed the gospel.”  But at the same time we must also say, “Our world needs the gospel.”  At the heart of this discussion is our motivation (The Reason Why) for sharing the gospel.  For most people their motivation comes from one of two reasons:  1) A desire to obey God’s command to share the gospel, Matthew 28:18-20, 2) A desire to see everyone escape the flames of hell.  Brethren both of these reasons are important but they cannot be the top reason for sharing the gospel.

John Piper, “Desiring God,” shared wonderful insight on this subject this very morning, “The burning passion of our heart should be to share Christ because of a desire for His glory to be made known to the world.”  Brethren this must be at the heart of our reason why for everything we do.

Yes, we should want our lost neighbors to understand the gospel, repent, receive forgiveness, and eternal life.  But should we not even more want our neighbors to see the splendor of our king.  This was Isaiah’s burning passion as he surrendered to God’s call upon his life.  Consider the words of his prophecy of the first coming of our king:

                 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” 9:6.

Maybe you find yourself struggling with having a soft heart for your neighbors on a consistent basis?  Maybe you are struggling with keeping the gospel on your mind as you speak with others?  If these two things characterize you as they do with so many, let me encourage you to change your thought process to simply, “Doing these things because you want Jesus to be known in the world.”  I promise you that your level of consistency will change, because loving Christ will cause you to love the world and you will have His gospel on your lips consistently.

Looking For The Right Savior

September 28, 2011

“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” Isaiah 2:22

As the weather changes and the days of October come upon us, many people find themselves engaged in the passion of October baseball.  This week is the last week of the regular season and there are four teams that are fighting for the last two play off positions.  Last evening, I just glanced at one game for a moment.  It happened to be the moment when a player hit a two run homer to put his team in the lead.  The announcers were singing the praises of this man who was at that moment, “The savior of their season.”  I thought, “How ironic that these announcers would use such terminology to describe this man’s single act on the baseball field.”

This morning I considered chapters 2-5 in the book of Isaiah.  The prophet of God is predicting the coming judgment on Israel because, “her speech and her deeds are against the lord, defying His glorious presence,” Isaiah 3:8.  There is certainly much correlation to our present circumstances in America.

However for our time this day I want to focus on how Israel spend her time looking for another Savior.  These people were so empty of spiritual knowledge (4:13) that they would look in desperation for anyone to be their Savior.  For example, in chapter 3 the people see a man who is wearing a decent outfit of clothes and they think he is rich.  So they seek him out to be their leader.  Here is the man’s response, “I will not be a healer, in my house there is neither bread nor cloak,” 3:7.  The fact is this man was as much in need of a savior as they were.

Brothers and sisters in Christ consider all the false saviors in our world today.  Each of these false saviors offer hope that leads to hopelessness.  They offer peace that leads to greater problems.  They offer solutions that lead to only band aids for a gaping womb.  Such people are looking for the wrong Savior.

Only in Christ do we find the right savior.  Isaiah describes Christ as, “The branch of the Lord,” in chapter 4:2.  Brothers and sisters Jesus is the only true Savior.  He came to this rebellions and condemned world to be our Savior. The angels proclaimed on the day of His birth, “There is born this day in the city of David a Savior… Lk 2:11. “He is indeed the Savior of the world,” John 4:42.

Question, “How many of our friends and neighbors will die for a lack of knowledge of this very truth?”  This very question haunts me as I consider what I am failing to do.  So many of my neighbors do not know the truth.  This day I am praying for grace in their lives.  I am praying for an open door to share the gospel and I am praying that God would open their minds to the truth of the gospel.

Brothers and sisters let us be thankful we have the right Savior.  Brothers and sister let us take the gospel to those who do not have the right savior.

 

Does Sodom Exist Today?

September 27, 2011

Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing punishment of eternal fire,” Jude 7.

Jesus half-brother, Jude, wanted to write a letter to the church about our “common salvation.” But this was not to be because of  false teachers in the church.  These false teachers were teaching that they were above the moral law.  Such people were living sin-filled lives that were perverting the grace of our God.  Jude encourages the church to content for the faith.

In the midst of his contenting for our faith, Jude makes reference to a city, Sodom, that was judged because of its failure to obey God’s moral law.  As I read this verse, my heart was gripped with sadness and with brokenness because I believe we live in a nation that is just like Sodom.

Maybe you ask, “Pastor how do you know we are like Sodom?”  My answer would be, “Just look around you at what is going on in the world today.”  This very morning as I scanned the headlines at Foxnews.com I was taken back by all the Sodom like articles on their homepage.  Brothers and sisters in Christ we need to heed Jude’s call to content for the faith.  Unless we as a nation repent before our God, we will experience the same judgment as did Sodom.

This judgment has come upon every nation that chooses the life of Sodom instead of the life of Godliness.  Consider Israel, “Hear the word of the Lord you rulers of Sodom!  Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams,” Isaiah 1:10-11.  The nation of Israel wanted to come and worship but at the same time they wanted to continue with their wicked ways.

This is the life of Sodom in our midst.  We want to worship God in the church and we want to walk with the Godless in our communities.  Brothers and sisters these things cannot be.  I wonder, “Does Sodom exist on your street?”  Does Sodom exist in your church?  Finally does Sodom exist in your heart?

At this point I ask myself, “How can we get and keep Sodom out of our lives?”  Here is Jude’s answer, “Building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life,” Jude 20-21.

The next question would be, “How can we get and keep Sodom out of the lives of those around us?”  Again we see Jude’s answer, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh,” Jude 22-23.

Yes, Sodom does exist and yes we are living in Sodom.  However we do not have to be like Sodom.  We can through Christ, “Be kept from stumbling and we can through Christ be presented blameless before the presence of his glory.”  

This day I encourage you to grow in Christ and I encourage you to take the gospel to your Sodom.

The Partially Evangelized

September 26, 2011

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.  Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son,” II John 9

This morning I found myself challenged by a tough question:  “Is everyone a Christian who says they are a Christian?”  Certainly the answer to this question is not tough.  Here is what Jesus said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of God,” Matthew 7:21.  Our Lord makes it clear that not everyone who claims allegiance to Christ is really a Christian.

Now here is where the tough part comes in, “How do we apply this to our everyday relationships with others?”  Most all of us have friends who claim allegiance to Christ, but in their lives there is nothing that backs up their claim.  “According to U.S. Religious landscape Survey, over 132 million Americans claim allegiance to Christianity but over 99 million of these Americans have no commitment to Christ,” Cited from Gospel Coalition, September 26.”

John identified these people as, “Those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ.”  I truly believe it would do us well to once again, as the church, to focus on the teachings of Christ.  It seems that many in the main line church have all but forsaken the teaching of the word of God.  This strategy has plunged the church into a time of great apostasy and apathy.

This morning I was personally challenged to continue to stand behind the sacred desk and declare, “Thus saith the word of the Lord.”  This very day I want to challenge you to invest your life in the study  of the word of the Lord.  This very day I want to challenge you to invest your life in the communication of the word to people around you.  This very day I want to challenge you to pray for the partially evangelized.  Finally I want to challenge you to build relationships with the partially evangelized.  These steps will pay eternal dividends for those who faint not in the journey of faith.

I want to make one personal application before we close.  If you are a parent who is facing a tough season of life with one or maybe more than one of your children, “Stay the course.”  The word of sanctification is not an easy work.  It is not easy for you and it is not easy for those in your charge.  But stay the course because there will come a day when you will look back and you will say, “It was worth it all after all.”

What Is The Problem?

September 23, 2011

This morning I approach our time together with great humility because of our subject matter.  This morning I want to consider the Apostle John’s words in I John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Here in the text before us John reminds us of our humanity.  The fact is everyone is included in I John 1:8.  Every person who is born is born with a sin nature that evidences itself by sinning.

However, most people try to side-step the sin problem.  This begins early in life as children have within them a sin nature that from the earliest stages of life denies their problem.  For example, “When you give your child a direct command to clean up his or her room.”  The child leaves your presence and thirty minutes later you walk into their room and discover he or she has not even started cleaning their room.  You ask, “Why have you not cleaned your room?”  The response, “I don’t know.”  You probe even deeper, “Did you not hear what I told you to do?”  Finally an honest response, “Yes.”  You quickly move to seize the moment with what should be the revealing question, “Then why didn’t you obey what you heard?”  And even quicker response comes back from the child, “I don’t know.”

Brothers and sisters, unless a child is forced to deal with his or her sin, the problem will continue in adulthood. For example, “A man chooses to disobey God’s direct command to be faithful to his wife.”  A dear friend confronts him with his sin by asking, “Why are being unfaithful to your wife?”  He responds, “I didn’t intend to, it just happened.”  Notice, the adult has a little more content in his response, but the problem is the same.  He is unwilling to admit his sin.

Question, “How many of us are guilty of the same problem?”  Brothers and sisters, John is clear in his writing, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth,” 1:7.  The key to overcoming this problem is by “Practicing the truth!”

How does one practice the truth?  The process begins with “Confession of sin.”  “If we confess our sins.”  This confession must first be to God who, “is faithful and just to forgive our sins and the cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Next we need to confess to the people around us.  We admit our sinfulness and we confess our repentance through baptism which tells the world we are beginning a new life in Christ.  This process is completed by daily practicing truth.

This last part is crucial.  You and I will not be perfect.  However when we practice truth our days are filled with healthy confession and healthy clinging to the truth of God’s word that daily changes our lives.  Yes, I can have fellowship with God if, “I walk in the light as he is in the light.”  

Now that we know what the problem is, I pray we choose to accept the solution to the problem!

All We Need

September 22, 2011

This morning a group of people from our church are ministering at a food pantry in our city.  Each week different people from our community come to this centralized place with one thought in mind, “I have a need that others can meet.”  I must say, “Praise the Lord that we are able to meet their needs.”

This morning I was reminded of the blessings we have in Christ for the provision of all we need.  Here is how Peter describes this very fact, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”  

There are two things that I want to point out to you this morning: 1) God meets every need that “Pertains to life.”  Question, “what are your life needs?”  Certainly we could have much discussion concerning this subject.  But so that we do not have to argue opinions, lets just hear from Jesus, “Do not be anxious about your life because your life is about more than food and clothing,” Lk 12:23.  The fact is, God has promised to meet all the needs we have, but often we want more than what pertains to life.  In those moments we struggle because we are trying to take our provisions and waste them on wants.  In these moments we find ourselves desperate for what pertains to  life.  In these moments we cry out to God and we actually blame Him for so-called, “Letting us down!”  Nothing can be any farther from the truth.  God gives us everything that pertains to life.  So if our needs are not being met we need to look at what we are doing with what we are receiving.

2) God meets every need that Pertains to Godliness. Our God has promised to provide for us all things that will lead us to live a life of godliness.  Certainly there are those who read this who say, “this isn’t true.  I try to live for God and all I do is mess up.”  Question, “Have you received and have you begun to exercise with the tools God has provided you?”  You ask, “What tools?”  Here they are:

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love,” II Peter 1:5-7.

These are the very things we need to live a life of godliness.  God has provided us with the ability to excel, through the Spirit, in each of these areas.  When we do, we will become Godly in our lives.  Again the question would be, “What are you doing with what God has provided.”

Certainly there will be people who come to the food pantry who will take advantage what they are given, but many more will use correctly what they are given and I am convinced they can say, “It is all they need.”  Brothers and sisters God has given us all we need.  Isn’t it time we use what He has given in the correct way for His glory?

What’s Happened To You?

September 21, 2011

This past Sunday morning a young lady walked up to a couple she knew very well in her church.  They talked for a few moments and then suddenly the young lady asked this couple if they wanted to buy her baby.  This couple was in shock.  They did not know how to respond, so they went to the altar to pray.  After the service this couple called the police and the police arrested this young lady.

I must admit, as I read this article from Foxnews.com, that I found myself asking, “What was wrong with this lady?”  As I continued to read the article I discovered this young lady had been engaging in drug use.  The addiction had so overtaken her life that she was even willing to sell her baby to feed the addiction that possessed her.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am so thankful that in Christ we have victory over sin.  Here is how Peter describes this very fact, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” I Peter 4:1.  As followers of Christ the power of sin can no longer control our lives.

However, some who read this will undoubtedly respond, “If this is the case, then why do Christians fall prey to addictions?”  Here is Peter’s answer, “We are to no longer live the rest of our lives for the passions of the flesh.”  Yes we have power, in Christ, to overcome sin, but we must choose to rely on that power and resist the passions of the flesh.  The goal of our new life in Christ is for the world to see us differently.

Peter describes this life as follows, “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery,” I Peter 4:4.  Oh how wonder to live a life that causes people to ask, “What happened to you?” But oh how awful to live a life of sin that would cause people to ask, “What happened to you?”

This very morning I asked the Lord to continue to work in my life so that my life would reflect his life.  I want his life to be lived out in my life so that he would be glorified.

I truly believe this mornings blog is a wakeup call for some who read this.  It is time that you take inventory of what is happening in your life. Maybe you find yourself in the place where you are slipping back to where you used to be? If so, confess your sin to God.  Come back to Him in humility and express His fresh power to overcome sin in your life.  Or maybe you are striving to follow Christ and it is time you take inventory so that you can praise Him even more for His work of grace in your life.

May the world see Christ at work in your life today.  When this happened the world will take notice.

Living Away From Home

September 19, 2011

Over the weekend Sherry and I had the opportunity to “Skipe” with our daughter who is a sophomore at Liberty University.  “Skipe” is a wonderful communication tool that allows you to see each other over the internet.  I was able to see Beth and her room.  It makes conversation so much more intimate when you are able to see the person you are talking with.

This morning I was reminded, as I began a study of I Peter, how important it is for us to be God’s “Skipe” for people who know not Christ.  Peter begins his letter, “To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion…” These words seemed to just leap of the page as God reminded me that this world is not my home.  The foot-note in my Reformation study bible gave this commentary, “The word exile emphasizes the temporary nature of a sojourner’s stay in a place.  As exiles, Christians live in the world, but their real home is in heaven and their hope is anchored there.”

The fact is you and I are living away from home.  So with this fact in hand, the question that comes to my mind is simple this, “How should I live why I am away from home?”  Here is Peter’s answer, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war in your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation,” I Peter 2:11-12.

Peter gives us instruction concerning how we are to live here being citizen’s of another place.  First we are to conqueror the flesh.  The fact is, we may be citizens of another place but inside of us is a nature that fights to live like we used to live before coming to Christ.  We must rely, not on ourselves, but on Christ, “Who bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness,” 2:24.  Secondly we must be committed to our faith.  Our goal must be to make Christ famous in this foreign world.  We should spend our time focusing on the one who granted us citizenship in a foreign land.  We should live a life that reflects His life being the crown jewel of our lives.  We must resist the temptation to grab all of this life.

People who are happy citizens of another place do not try to buy up all the property in the place where they are visiting.  This very day the Lord reminded me that all I want to take from this place (The world) are as many souls as possible for His glory.  It is my prayer that the Lord will help us to live as exiles for His glory this day!!!

It’s Going According To Plan

September 16, 2011

Yesterday, when I picked Keith up from work I noticed he was carrying some paperwork in his hand.  When I asked about it he said, “Dad I took an evaluation survey about myself.”  I must confess it was a wonderful read for our family during our evening meal.  We were amazed how part of the results were right on target.  There were a few that were off but most were on target.  God had blessed us with a wonderful son in whom we love very much.

One of the observations about Keith was that he was very consistent in developing a plan and sticking to the plan, even if he had to emphasis the plan over and over before those he worked for or with.  Certainly this could be said of many of us as we often get plans in our mind that drive us to complete them.

Consider our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as he stood before Pilate.  Here is Pilate’s question to Jesus, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”  Brothers and sisters, Pilate was saying, “I am in charge.  The plans for your future are in my hands.”  Notice Jesus response, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above,”John 19:11. The fact is all of this was going according to God’s plan.

The cross Jesus was about to bear was all according to God’s plan.  After six hours on the cross, John comments concerning Jesus plan, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished,” 19:28. Our salvation was all according to God’s plan.

This morning I suspect that many of you are bearing crosses and maybe some of you are wondering, “What is God’s plan in all of this?”  His plan is for His name to be made famous through your life.  All His plan’s are for His glory and your good.  The Apostle Paul wrote the following, “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things,” Rom 8:32.

Our God has a plan and this plan is not for your destruction, depression, or defeat.  God’s plan has within it His provision for all you need to get through the rough spots (Crosses) you bear.  The question that you must answer today is this, “Do you trust His plan?”  If you do not, then you will spend your days trying to accomplish your plan.  And I promise you that your plan will end up in the scrap heap of failed plans.

This very morning I prayed at the end of my devotion time, “God, I repent for all the times I have failed to trust in your plan and provision.  I have failed to trust you and have often lived with anxiety which placed unmerited stress in your plan.  Dear Lord help me to walk daily in faith trusting that you will give me all things I need to accomplish you plan.  Lord I love you and I praise you for creating a plan that even mentioned a sinner such as I.”